Knox City freshman Lyndon Baty has become an expert on overcoming 15 years of doctors visits and isolation thanks to a robot and his love of sports.
The tiny town of Knox City, population around 1,000, isn't the kind of place you would imagine being at the forefront of technology. The community is surrounded by cotton fields, with Main Street at the center of it all. It’s everything you'd expect from this slice of the simple life.
But, inside the halls of Knox City High School there is a student, who isn't exactly a country boy born and bred.
The "V-Go" robot starts every morning at 9 a.m., he glides through the hallways, answers questions, and joins with other students during group sessions. Known as the Baty Bot, this battery charged student goes to school, because his pilot, 15-year-old Lyndon Baty cannot.
"The reason I can't go to school, is because I'm very immunosuppressant from a lot of treatment," said Baty. "I have only one working kidney, but it only works about 12 percent and the other kidney, it does not work at all."
"Lyndon was born with infantile polycystic kidney disease. He had the odds of living up to two years," said Sheri Baty, Lyndon's mother.
His zest for life actually kept him alive well into his teenage years. In fact, in 2003 after a kidney transplant, Lyndon was able to go to school, play sports and be with his friends. But just a year before he was due to start high school, he suffered a setback.
"He had his kidney for 8 years and just all of the sudden had developed immediate rejection," said Sheri. "There was numerous drugs that they tried on him that should have gotten the rejection under control, but they did not work. And it knocked his immune system down to the point that where he didn't have an immune system."
"He totally was isolated and had to be here at home, and things weren't going well," said Louis Baty, Lyndon's father.
"I would just coil up on the bed or the couch," said Lyndon. "Just have tears in my eyes because I really wasn't living a life."
As hard as it was, there was one thing that did provide Lyndon some relief -- sports.
"Sports was definitely my outlet," said Lyndon. "I would have machines hooked up to me, and probably lay down on my bed and hardly move a muscle. Pretty much the only muscle I could move was my thumb, flipping through the channels. Sports is really just the thing, that makes me."
With his kidney rejection and susceptibility to illness, Lyndon could no longer play team sports, including his favorite sport basketball.
"Luckily, through some research, and really by chance, a lady who worked at the school district called the service center and asked what's available," said Louis. "And it just so happened that the day before she made that phone call the salesman for V-GO had come by and said, 'I want to demonstrate this, I have absolutely no idea how it could be used in a school setting, but we think it has use.'"
And what a use it really did have. Enter what is now called, “The Baty Bot."
"They take my last name Baty and of course it's a robot and they came up with “The Baty Bot," said Lyndon.
Controlling the robot from home, Baty is now able to attend classes, talk with teachers, answer questions and hang out with friends all through the interactive capabilities of the Baty Bot. It's Lyndon's face on the screen, almost as if he were at the school in person.
The school district actually bought the 'Baty Bot' for $5,000 and when Lyndon graduates, it will be passed onto another student.
If that’s not enough, he’s also found a way to enjoy sports without threatening his health. Lyndon wanted back in the game and it turns out the open air of a football stadium and the seclusion of a press box was where the Baty family found their solution -- and perhaps their sons calling.
"Along comes the brilliant idea of, ‘Hey, this kid can announce,’" said Sheri.
”It lets me to be a part of the sports that I cannot play," said Baty. "People hear my voice and its immediate hey it clicks, Hey it's Lyndon!”
"He's very loud, he gets excited and gets louder and believes in dragging names out for 10 minutes it seems like," said Louis.
Baty's booming voice has become unmistakable through the country roads of Knox City. The microphone is his refuge, the robot his human connection, and with them, Lyndon Baty has the best of both of his worlds. And the most impressive part? He has defied the odds for 15 years, all while sporting his other trademark, a silent message for the game of life.
"I really just hate people just being sad and depressed," said Baty. "I really want people to see me and say, ‘Hey, he has this disease, he doesn't feel well he's weak, but yet, he's so happy and so active."
Baty is anxiously awaiting another kidney transplant. He will be listed again in February.